Living Large in the Cheap Seats

Culture is wonderful, but it can be expensive.  When you’re on a budget it may seem frivolous to spend several hundred dollars for tickets to a symphony, concert or hockey game.  But there are ways to get out of the house and experience some culture, even if you’re in the cheap seats.  That’s better than no seats at all.  Because it’s definitely not a party if you’re sitting at home, staring at your popcorn ceiling.

Culture and art not only feed your soul; they also make you smarter.

Not all cities are overflowing with cultural events and maybe the chances of a Broadway show coming to your town are slim to no-way.  Don’t get discouraged.  You need to keep an open mind.  Every town has something to offer.  Check out the official website.

Whether you’re in a tiny town or living it up in an exciting, vibrant metropolis, there are ways to get you culture free or cheap. 

Let’s look at a few:

  • Art galleries: Most cities and towns have art galleries that showcase local artists. Scour the newspapers or Internet for openings and you could find your weekends filled culture as well as free wine. You might have to listen to some pretentious art talk – but don’t let that stop you.  Browse and appreciate the beauty of the work and meet and greet the artists.  Plus, did I mention free wine? 
  • Street fairs: Every place has its own version of a street fair, country fair, and food or craft beer festival.  The fests are usually free, or they might have a small fee, or want a donation to the Food Bank. Check out the exhibits, classic car displays, crafts, music, multi-cultural events and delicious food.
  • Free museum days:  If there’s a museum in your town (and I’ve seen them in the tiniest places) chances are they offer free admission once a week or once a month.  Take advantage of their generosity.  At the Kelowna museum we’ve seen such things as an abridged King Tut display, Greek sculptures, Indigenous culture and the history of wood (I know that sounds pretty sleep inducing but it was actually quite interesting).
  • Outdoor theatre/concerts:  If you see the words “free” and “concert” next to each other, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.  You can find events such as Shakespeare or Music in the Park.  Even if it’s a local high school variety show or a Timbuk3 reunion tour – you’ll be out of the house.  Bring your own blanket and settle in to be entertained.
  • University events:  If there’s a university or college nearby, they likely have a theater department, an art department and a dance department.  They will definitely have athletics.  See if they have any free or cheap performances going on. 
  • Gardens:  Strolling through a Japanese garden and contemplating a giant lily pad in a koi pond is a cultural activity in my opinion.  Look for botanical gardens or a tour of display gardens.  They may charge a small fee or there might even be a free on near you. 
  • Lectures:  If the word “lecture” gives you painful flashbacks to high school physics class, try to remain calm even if you have doubts.  Libraries, universities, community centres and bookstores often offer free lectures on topics like art history, 1970’s cinema, Vietnamese cooking, and everybody’s favourite – natural disasters. 
  • Go on a walk:  I don’t think there’s any activity that’s cheaper than walking around and gazing at things. Get lost in your town and discover new hidden gems or go on a guided walking tour such as a “haunted places” tour and learn about your local ghosts with some friends.  And, if you’re walking around and climbing up and down stairs, it counts as a workout.

If you have particular interests in mind you can volunteer at various venues and get your fill of concerts, ballet, wrestling, Highland games or Monster Truck shows.  My sister in law volunteered at the Olympics and saw all the figure skating she could handle – free.

The bottom line

Don’t let a frugal budget keep you from enjoying cultural events.

Get out of the house and check them out.  If you don’t like them, you don’t have to go back.

Expanding your mind even in the nosebleed section is better than becoming one with the couch and binge watching Columbo reruns all weekend. 


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